The prosecution: Avatar 's story details Earth's occupation of alien moon Pandora, as humans battle the indigenous Na'vi for control of precious mineral Unobtanium.
Sound familiar? Try substituting 'humans' for 'Americans.' For Pandora, read Iraq. Unobtainium? That’d be oil.
At least, that's the opinion of several right-wing commentators - this one's a good example - who are frothing that James Cameron (incidentally, not American: he's Canadian) is getting away with such blatant leftist propaganda.
The defence: Criticising a country's political leaders - in this case Dubya's neocons and their "shock and awe" foreign policy - is hardly the same as criticising the entire country. Plenty of Americans were anti-war too, remember.
Besides, look who's helping the Na'vi - a gaggle of sympathetic humans led by Sully (Sam Worthington). As The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw observed, “The film [is] unable to decide if it wants to kick the ass of every alien in sight or get all eco-touchy-feely with them. It's a Dubya movie trying its darnedest to get with the new Obama programme."
The judgement: The metaphor isn’t hard to miss, and the inferences to recent events not exactly what we’d call subtle. But does that make Cameron's film a rallying call for for discontented audiences to take up arms against America? Er, no.
The Prosecution: Scenesmoking.org awarded Avatar a ‘black lung’ for unacceptable depictions of smoking. Stanton A. Glantz of the Smoke Free Movies Initiative claimed the film is "like someone just put a bunch of plutonium in the water supply."
All because Dr Grace Augustine (Signourney Weaver), one of the film’s heroes, is such a nicotine fiend she’s gasping for a smoke as soon as she comes out of cryogenic sleep. Clearly, Cameron must be in the employ of death stick merchants.
The Defence: An aggrieved Cameron has hit back with a lengthy, logical riposte that the on-screen smoking is intentionally unattractive.
Grace’s physical unhealthiness, he claims, is a deliberate contrast to the care with which she treats her Avatar, a conscious dig at Second Lifers who buff up online while downing deep pan pizzas in real-life.
The Judgement: Cameron's certainly talking sense, although his argument tends to be undone by the fact that Weaver looks way cool (and dare we say, smokin’ hot) as she puffs away on a fag.
But at least he is talking sense, unlike the hysterical gubbins Mr Glantz is spouting.
The Prosecution: According to http://www.stopavatarmovie.blogspot.com/ Avatar should be boycotted for - wait for it - promoting heterosexual themes.
Angry transgender blogger Lara insists that today's social norms will be a thing of the past by the year 2154. “ Avatar ignores the fact of Evolution. Humans are evolving to be being Transgender, NOT heterosexual.”
The future, it seems, will be out and proud. Including the Na'vi.
The Defence: Leaving aside the question of where Lara studied evolutionary science, where did (s)he study logic?
The absence of a positive - or, indeed, any - transgender romantic role model isn't by default a negative step. Otherwise films as diverse as Casablanca , Dirty Dancing , The Lady And The Tramp and (oh yes) Titanic would be similarly homophobic.
As for the future, isn't it enough that we've already had one homoerotic sci-fi movie in the past year? Kirk and Spock are so into each other.
The Judgement: This argument's a complete non-starter. NOT GUILTY.
Although, thinking about it, Cameron might have missed a trick by not including a bi-curious fella slipping into a lady Na’vi suit for some extra-terrestrial lesbianism. Maybe one for the sequel?
It Promotes Papyrus
The Prosecution: Design blogs are up in arms at Cameron’s choice of the deeply naff and overused Papyrus typeface, synonymous with “New Age spa owners, suburban party planners, and young couples looking to save money by making their own wedding invitations.”
As this wittily satirical letter to Cameron - 'written by' the font itself - puts it: “Kudos to you for not spending a single cent of your massive budget on an expensive, attractive font for the subtitles, and opting to put me to the task instead."
The Defence: Woody Allen has got away with the same white Windsor Elongated typeface on a black background for over three decades and nobody complains.
Cameron uses one unimaginative font – in a film otherwise teeming with jaw-dropping graphics – and suddenly the world’s ended.
The Judgement: It’s a bit tacky, we’ll admit, but it's not even the worst thing about the end credits. That’d be the Leona Lewis dirge, obviously.
The Prosecution: Ouch! Many viewers have left Avatar dazed not by the film's eye-popping visuals but in actual physical pain from the process of their eyes popped.
See, the conditions required to create a 3D image on-screen work against the natural patterns of eye movement, which can induce eye strain and migraines.
Worse, it can lead to nausea. In the words of an already infamous early review, "The problem is with cutting in between 3D focal points and perspective - the mind cannot adjust to it without a buffer - thus, Avatar is literally vomit inducing."
The Defence: This is a traditional problem with 3D, but it's one that only affects about 20% of the population.
And Cameron has worked hard to make life easy for that 20%. The 3D system he pioneered for Avatar uses technology that compensates for our visual instincts, aligning the cinematography's focus with the eyes' point of convergence. As this helpful guide explains, as long as we look where we're being guided to look, ocular problems should be minimal.
The Judgement: It depends - literally - on your viewpoint, but the majority verdict is clear.
It Promotes Bestiality
The Prosecution: Expect this one to really take off come Avatar ’s DVD release, but the case is already being built in preparation .
The issue? Interviewed about Neytiri’s sex scene with Sully, Zoe Saldana explained that the full version (a likely deleted or extended scene on disc) confirms that the Na’vi physical act of love involves the interlinking of those swishy tail things.
“If you sync to your banshee and you're syncing to a tree, why not sync into a person?" Saldana muses. "I almost feel like you'll have the most amazing orgasm.”
Trouble is, that raises the spectre of what exactly the Na’vi are really doing when they’re riding around on their banshees.
The Defence: It's difficult - not to mention a little crazy - to ponder the hypotheticals of a fictional biology, but all the on-screen clues suggest Pandora's eco-system is pretty sophisticated. It's hardly a stretch, then, to assume that the Na’vi plug-and-play system has more than one function.
" I think the bestiality thing is waay off," observed blogger TwiceDead. "We can use our hands for controlling a horse or for touching someone in a sexual manner - but by touching a horse we're not shagging it." Quite.
The Judgement: THe bestiality theory would certainly change the meaning of the scene where Sully wrestles the Banshee into submission. But until we see them lying in a hammock sharing a post-coital cuddle, it remains just a theory.
The Prosecution: Plenty of ammo from bloggers and columnists who see Avatar as that age-old ‘white guilt’ fantasy where an oppressor sees the light and rides to the rescue of the poor ethnic minority.
According to The Daily Telegraph’s Will Heaven , “The ethnic Na’vi need the white man to save them because, as a less developed race, they lack the intelligence and fortitude to overcome their adversaries by themselves. The poor helpless natives, in other words, must rely on the principled white man to lead them out of danger."
The Defence: Heaven compares Avatar to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness , which is interesting because both are also quite blatantly a critique of racist oppression.
And, as in countless other examples of this type of story from Dances With Wolves to District 9 , it's kinda difficult to make that point without having a would-be aggressor find himself preferring the other fella’s lifestyle.
The Judgement: People are always bound to find dodgy subtexts if they go looking for them. But, on the balance of probabilities, we think Cameron would be mortified at the conclusions drawn here.
NOT GUILTY. True Lies , on the other hand…
It Promotes Drug Use
The Prosecution: Like 2001: A Space Odyssey before it, Avatar has brought out the stoners in force. The difference is, now they can communicate their experiences and experiments at the click of a mouse .
Or, more terrifyingly, they can do this .
The Defence: If ever there was a movie that didn’t need drugs, it’s Avatar' s bioluminescent weirdness. If anything, it's more likely to replace drugs.
One wag has even come up with the inspired theory that, maybe, Unobtainium is itself a much-sought after narcotic , making the whole film an anti-drugs metaphor.
The Judgement: Frankly, the film is trippy enough as it is. Don't do it, kids.
It's Too Realistic
The Prosecution: Cameron said all along that the immersive splendour of Avatar would change the way we thought about cinema. In fact, in less than a month, it's changed the way many people think about reality.
Check out the already vastly popular www.naviblue.com fan forum, a haven for so-called Avatards who long for the 3D vistas of Pandora to be an actual geographical place.
Praise ranges from the merely overenthusiastic ("The combination of bonding and the life and nature on the moon of Pandora puts a tear to my eye") to the downright worrying ("I even contemplate suicide thinking that if i do it i will be re birthed in a world similar to Pandora and the everything is the same as in Avatar ").
The Defense: Scoff you may but if, at some point in your adult life, you've a) bought a limited edition action figure, b) left a comment on an Internet forum or c) let the existence of Jar-Jar Binks bother you in any way, you might consider moving out of that glass replica of The Fortress of Solitude before you start throwing stones.
The Judgement: Pandora might look so tangible you can touch it, but it's also populated by ten-foot-tall blue-skinned aliens who ride around on giant winged monsters.
Unless you're one Na'vi short of a Hometree, that's a dead giveaway that this isn't real .
NOT GUILTY .
It's A Remake
The Prosecution: Does Avatar seems at all familiar? But you can't quite remember where you've seen it before?
Well, check out this astute piece of detective work , which suggests Cameron was thinking of a certain 1990s Disney cartoon.
The Defence: The Na’vi are blue. Seriously, that's all we have.
The Judgement: Sorry Jim, you're totally busted on this one.